December 8, 2009


Hunt, Lynn, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York: Norton, 2007) (“As nationalism became more closely entwined with ethnicity, it fed into an increasing emphasis on biological explanations for difference. . . . Differences had to have a more solid foundation if men were to maintain their superiority to women . . . . In short, if rights were to be less than universal, equal, and natural, then reasons had to be given. As a consequence, the nineteenth century witnessed an explosion in biological explanations of difference.” Id. at 186. “Ironically, then, the very notion of human rights inadvertently opened the door to more virulent forms of sexism . . . . . In effect, the sweeping claims about natural equality of all mankind called forth equally global assertions about natural difference, producing a new kind of opponent to human rights, more powerful and sinister even than the traditionalist ones. The new forms of . . . sexism offered biological explanations for the naturalness of human difference. . . . . Women were not simply less reasonable than men because they were less educated; their biology destined them to the private, domestic life and made them entirely unsuitable for politics, business, or the professions. In these new biological doctrines, education or change in environment could never change the inherent hierarchical structures in human nature.” Id. at 187. “With the emergence of explicit arguments for the political equality of women, the biological argument for women’s inferiority shifted. Females no longer occupied a lower rung on the same biological ladder as males, making them biologically similar to males, even if inferior. Females were now increasingly case as altogether different biologically; they became the ‘opposite sex’.” Id. at 188.).

Nussbaum Martha C., Sex and Social Justice (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1999) "The essays in this volume . . . articulat[e] a distinctive conception of feminism. The feminism defended here has five salient features: It is internationalist, humanist, liberal, concerned with the social shaping of preference and desire, and, finally, concerned with sympathetic understanding. These five elements are not usually found together, and some of them are widely thought to be at odds with others. I shall argue, however, that a coherent and powerful picture emerges from their combination. Among the advantages of the combination is an opportunity to link feminist inquiry closely to the important progress that has been made during the past few decades in articulating the elements of a theory of both national and global justice." Id. at 6. "In grappling further with these issues, we should begin from the realization there is nothing per se wrong with taking money for the use of one's body. That's the way most of us live, and formal recognition of that fact through contract is usually a good thing for people, protecting their security and their employment conditions. What seems wrong is that relatively few people in the world have the option to use their body, in their work, in what Marx would call a 'truly human' manner of functioning, by which he meant (among other things) having some choices about the work to be performed, some reasonable measure of control over its conditions and outcome, and also the chance to use thought and skill rather just to function as a cog in a machine. Women in many parts of the world are especially likely to be stuck at low level of mechanical functioning, whether as agricultural laborers or as factory workers or as prostitutes. The real question to be faced is how to expand the options and opportunities such workers face, how to increase the humanity inherent in their work, and how to guarantee that workers of all sorts are treated with dignity. In the further pursuit of these questions, we need, on balance, more studies of women's credit unions and fewer studies of prostitution." Id. at 297-298.).

Nussbaum, Martha C., Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2000) (“Women in much of the world lose out by being women.” Id. at 298. “I shall argue that international political and economic thought should be feminist, attentive (among other things) to the special problems women face because of sex in more or less every nation in the world, problems without an understanding of which general issues of poverty and development cannot be well confronted. An approach to international development should be assessed for its ability to recognize these problems and to make recommendations for their solution. I shall propose and defend one such approach, one that seems to me to do better in this area than other prominent alternatives. The approach is philosophical, and I shall try to show why we need philosophical theorizing in order to approach these problems well. It is also based on a universalist account of central human functions, closely allied to a form of political liberalism; one of my primary tasks will be to defend this type of universalism as a valuable basis from which to approach the problem of women in the developing world.” “The aim of the project as a whole is to provide the philosophical underpinning for an account of basic constitutional principles that should be respected and implemented by the governments of all nations, as a bare minimum of what respect for human dignity requires. . . . I shall argue that the best approach to this ides of a basic social minimum is provided by an approach that focuses on human capabilities, that is, what people are actually able to do and to be -- in a way informed by an intuitive idea of a life that is worthy of the dignity of the human being. I shall identify a list of central human capabilities, setting them in the context of a type of political liberalism that makes them specifically political goals and presents them in a manner free of any specific metaphysical grounding . . . . And I shall argue that the capabilities in question should be pursued for each and every person: thus I adopt a principle of each person’s capability, based on a principle of each person as end. Women have all too often been treated as the supporters of the ends of others, rather than as ends in their own rights; thus this principle has particular critical force with regard to women’s lives. Finally, my approach uses the idea of a threshold level of each capability. Beneath which it is held that truly functioning is not available to citizens; the social goal should be understood in terms of getting citizens above this capability threshold.” Id. at 5-6. Nussbaum’s list of “central human functional capabilities”: (1) life; (2) bodily health; (3) bodily integrity; (4) sense, imagination, and thought; (5) emotions; (6) practical reason; (7) affiliation; (8) other species; (9) play; and (10) control over one’s environment both political and material. Id. at 78-80.).